Museum of Automobiles in Morrilton Home to Only Climber Cars in World

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This is one of only two Climbers known to exist in the world! It was donated to the museum by Atley and Betty Davis of Little Rock. Photo by Z. Clift

This is one of only two Climbers known to exist in the world! It was donated to the museum by Atley and Betty Davis of Little Rock. Photo by Z. Clift

I always try to make a stop by the Museum of Automobiles when I visit Petit Jean Mountain in Morrilton. There are more than 50 cars on display at the museum and all represent an impressive slice of automobile history. One of my favorite cars is the Climber. They were made by the Climber Motor Corporation, which was Arkansas’s only automobile manufacturer ( they opened their doors in Little Rock in 1919 and closed production in 1924). The company was known for producing durable cars that could handle the rough roads of the state of the time. The museum, which is located at 8 Jones Lane, is now home to the only two Climber cars known to exist in the world.  For more details on the museum, check out museumofautos.com.

I researched around and found a great bit of history care of Ralph Wilcox of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. I am copying some of his research below as I think it is quite interesting. Enjoy!

Although the company was constantly plagued by a lack of funds, and also a lack of parts, in its early days, the cars and trucks that the company produced were good vehicles. The company produced two car models, the Climber Four and the Climber Six, and at least two truck models, in one- and two-ton versions. The Climber Four, which was called the Climber “Four-Forty” in advertisements because of its four-cylinder, forty-horsepower Spillman engine, was a five-passenger touring car with a collapsible top and side curtains.

Sharing the history of the Climber. Photo by Z. Clift.

Sharing the history of the Climber. Photo by Z. Clift.

The Climber was also a durable automobile that could handle the rough roads of Arkansas at the time. To publicize the car’s abilities, an endurance test was conducted in the winter of 1919–20 under the supervision of William B. Owen, state highway commissioner. After the car’s engine was started in Little Rock, it was kept running constantly as the car traveled through 20,239 miles of “winter mud and rain over nearly impassable roads of the South.” The test ended on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol when Governor Charles Brough disconnected the car’s carburetor, shutting off the engine. The toughness of the Climber was illustrated in another test when the car was driven up the steps of the State Capitol. One early advertisement for the company also specifically targeted Arkansans when it said, “You believe in Arkansas. You live in Arkansas. The Climber Four is made in Arkansas for Arkansas roads. Buy a Climber Four and save the freight.”

Today, the Climber Motor Corporation factory building remains in Little Rock and is currently the headquarters of Creative Engineering/Micro Grinding. The significance of the building was recognized with its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. In addition, two Climbers are known to exist, both located at the Museum of Automobiles outside Morrilton (Conway County).

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Posted in Museums, Travel Arkansas

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